SPEAK OUT: Can Olde Towne Gaithersburg Become A Local Destination?

Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee hopes to turn Olde Towne Gaithersburg into a local destination.

At the mention of Olde Towne, too many people in the Gaithersburg area associate with Old Town Alexandria, something Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee co-chair Lenny Levy said he hopes to change.

Seeking new members, the subcommittee hopes to serve as "the eyes and ears of Olde Towne," and "find out what we can do to bring new business, new residential prospects and new people," Levy told Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz and the City Council during Monday's annual commmittee briefings.

Levy called the committee's major project, the Archstone community, "an attractive amenity" that will help kickstart progress on making Olde Towne a local destination.

Archstone is a new apartment complex along East Diamond Avenue which will lease retail space to tenants on the ground floor.

Levy also said signage along I-270 and I-370 needs to be changed to further promote Olde Towne. Signs currently recognize the Gaithersburg Historic District, but not areas like Olde Towne and Kentlands, Levy said.

Speak Out: Can Olde Towne Gaithersburg become a local destination? Do you, like Lenny Levy, view the Archstone community as an attractice amenity? How would you like to see Olde Towne improved? Tell us in the comments!

Tom Rowse December 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Ultimately, the mayor and council have to be advocates of the revitalization effort and they are not. At this point, they continue to only concerned with their own self interests while Olde Towne businesses and residents will continue to be ignored.
Jeff Banagan December 13, 2012 at 06:14 AM
The area won't be a "bustling street scape" if the development fails to incorporate recognizable retail/restaurants. It's just going to be another area wasted if the city does not push its efforts to attract businesses into Olde Towne. Gaithersburg's city hall is located here, but the area surrounding it fails to recognize that Olde Towne should be one of the key downtown locations in the city.
Kenneth Weiss December 13, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I would love to see Olde Towne be a destination, but we need a good study and a comprehensive plan. We shouldn't just make ad hoc changes like, for example, putting a new four story building in the midst of historic two story buildings.
Jack Edwards December 13, 2012 at 02:29 PM
It'd be great to see, but I think a start would be more night-life clubs open. Places like Chloe's Coffee tried to be; with open mic nights and just a good atmosphere to 'hang out' at. With Chloe's now closed there aren't many places to go and rave about. Growler's is a good start, but there should be more.
Cat December 13, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I wouldn't want to see too many more "attractive amenity" big apartment buildings come in. Keep the old historic buildings; encourage more small local business owners to come in. I'd love to see a boutique pet shop, a health foods market, a coffee shop and maybe a small used bookstore.
tonic226 December 13, 2012 at 08:10 PM
In the long term, yes. However, there are a couple of things that will need to happen before an Olde Towne destination becomes a reality. First, people will need to feel safe. What I don't see are cops walking the streets like many other walkable neighborhoods in our area. Once they feel safe, then Olde Towne will begin to attract more visitors. Secondly, there needs to be an emphasis on specialty nitche shops and restaurants/pubs to attract more people to the area. It seems the only happening night spot is Growlers, but people in their 20s and 30s will continue to frequent D.C. and Bethesda more often. If Olde Towne had a small multi-purpose venue such as a music club or theatre, then people within our region will begin to see this area as a destination. Another idea would be to revitilize some of the old houses and apartment buildings into loft style housing. This housing option is very popular for young professionals and artists and could be a catalyst for redevelopment. Olde Towne area will also need to become more pedrestrian and biker friendly and improve traffic crossing the train tracks.
Matt Hopkins December 13, 2012 at 08:43 PM
http://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/Documents/083005_olde_towne_plan3.pdf The Olde Towne Plan is a still few years old but still holds good water and follows the proposed redevelopment projects to a tee so far. Making the district into a sustainable destination neighborhood is a long process and done mostly by committees such as this with most of the effort needed to come from a Business Improvement district. See our site for a decent toolkit on how to begin this process and what our priorities might be. http://vibrantstreets.com/
Greg Cohen December 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Thanks for the added input and context, Matt!
Mike B December 17, 2012 at 08:42 AM
I agree with the comments about the nightlife/music venue. I'm not sure what the building houses now, but several years ago, on Diamond Ave there was a club called The Old Town Firehouse Cue (before that it was Buffallo Billiards). That was a great place that was always packed. They had a lot great local and national acts there. Unfortunately the owners, a husband and wife, were going through a messy divorce and had to close the place. Seeing as how there is a severe lack of music venues left in Montgomery County, a similar club could provide a large draw of people. I know there are many who would argue saying that the music venues closed due to lack of business/interest, but I beleieve that it was because there was such an overabundance that the market was oversaturated. In addition, I believe a major problem in turning Old Towne Gaithersburg into a "local destination" that has not been addressed is the railroad crossing. Unless you're a local who knows to pass Summit and take Brookes to avoid the tracks there's a good chance you may find yourself sitting at the intersection of Summit and Diamond for 10 minutes, or sometimes more. Personally I feel that a bridge over the tracks would make the area more inviting to businesses.
Sharon December 17, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Clark Day January 27, 2013 at 04:19 PM
As long as there are 5 check cashing stores within walking distance of each other in Olde Towne there will not be successful growth.
Old Town Supporter March 26, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Before you can attract the "right mix of retail tenants" the retailers need to see significant numbers of people with disposable income living in Old Towne. The Archstone project is just a small part of what needs to occur to both attract and retain this critical demographic. The more that the area can attract high earning 25 - 34 year olds the more that restaurants, boutiques and other businesses will be attracted to the area. This will help to create a virtuous cycle of improvement rather than the fits and starts stagnation that has plagued the area for years. To achieve this success, the City simply needs to set high standards and then get out of the way.


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